MMA Review: #548: WEC 12: Halloween Fury III
-Ah, the wonders of Fight Pass, which has an *insane* amount of stuff in the archives. Maybe the best bit, outside of all of the old UFC and PRIDE shows? The WEC archive, and I’m not just talking from the Zuffa era of 2007-10. Even before that the WEC was one of the best smaller promotions out there with a ton of talent that ended up in the UFC and so with the promotion turning 15 years old last week, I figured I’d check out the shows I missed out last time I looked at a bunch of WEC, namely WEC 12-15 from 2004-5, the period right before and right after the TUF boom, a generally epic time to be an MMA fan really.
WEC 12: Halloween Fury III
-Your hosts are the late Ryan Bennett, Stephen Quadros and the late Jeff Blatnick. Man, time flies and it’s shit sometimes. It’s now been ten years since Bennett died in a car accident and four since Blatnick passed away due to heart problems. Quadros thankfully is still with us.
Both of these guys went on to the UFC; Lambert at the end of 2005 after an excellent run on the smaller circuit while Horwich arrived via the death of the IFL in late 2008. Lambert ended up having a much better UFC career than Horwich who only lasted two fights, but at this point from what I remember Horwich had a little more hype on him.
Round One and Horwich walks forward covering up, taking some big shots before he looks for the takedown. Lambert stuffs it and they clinch, and then Lambert takes him down into guard. Looks like Horwich might be going for a kimura but he gives it up as Lambert looks to pass the guard. They come back to their feet and Lambert lands a couple of uppercuts from the clinch, before hitting another double leg to plant Horwich back on the ground. This time he’s in half-guard, and Lambert punches the body hard before stacking up to land more shots as Horwich gets full guard back. Horwich gives his back for a second and then almost finds himself mounted, and in fact he does find himself mounted. Big shots from Lambert and he’s all over Horwich here. Ref looks like he might step in as Lambert continues to bomb on him, before standing over the kneeling Horwich to land some more shots. Horwich drops back down into half-guard but he can’t shake Lambert off him, and the round ends with Lambert doing more damage. 10-8 round for Lambert methinks.
Round Two and Horwich keeps reaching for an attempted takedown and then glances on a head kick, but Lambert nails him with a knee to the body and then tosses Horwich to the ground where he immediately gets to full mount. Horwich gives his back pretty quickly again and then turns back to mount, taking shots all the way as he does so. Into side mount now for Lambert and he continues to punish Horwich. Lambert stands over him for a second and then drops back into the guard, and it doesn’t look like Horwich knows at all what to do. Another mount follows for Lambert and he opens up with some forearm shots, and this ought to be stopped really. And sure enough Horwich’s corner do decide to stop the fight and that’s that.
Really good showing from Lambert as he just battered Horwich from start to finish, and although it took another year you could tell here that Lambert was UFC-ready and it’s understandable why he had success there. Horwich looked undersized and had a poor striking game, but a move to 185lbs would end up helping him a lot.
Oh wow, Nate’s pro MMA debut although no doubt he’d had countless fights before this. Never heard of opponent Garcia but with Nick Diaz coming into the spotlight earlier in 2004 then I’m guessing WEC probably hand-picked him for Nate to beat.
First round begins and Diaz comes out swinging before Garcia gets a single leg down into half-guard. Scramble sees Nate pop right back up and get a takedown of his own, but another scramble allows Garcia up. Diaz stays down and kicks at him from his back, landing a nice upkick, before standing back up. Clinch from Diaz and they muscle for position along the fence, exchanging some knees in the process. Beautiful lateral drop from Garcia plants Diaz on his back, but he stands back up over him again and Diaz again kicks from his back. Ref calls Diaz back up and he throws a kick, but Garcia catches it and slams him right down. Diaz begins to work from the guard and it looks like he’s trying for a triangle, but Garcia avoids it and they pop up where Diaz looks for a takedown of his own. Garcia reverses him with a judo throw and lands on top again before standing back up. Big right hand from Diaz but Garcia hits him with another throw and almost mounts him before Diaz kicks him away. Front kick is caught by Garcia and he gets another takedown, but stands up again. Diaz goes for a single leg of his own and AGAIN gets reversed, but Garcia seems terrified of staying on top and stands up yet again. Big right hand through the guard for Garcia but it doesn’t land cleanly. Armbar attempt from Diaz and it looks sunk, but Garcia pulls free and lands a solid right hand. Diaz goes right back to the armbar attempt, but the bell sounds there. Hell of a round! 10-9 Garcia.
Second round and Diaz opens with a trademark combination before Garcia shoots on a double leg and transitions into a waistlock. Trip into a kimura attempt ala Karo Parisyan from Nate, but he can’t get it and winds up on his back going for a triangle instead. Garcia postures up well to avoid but another attempt looks a bit deeper. Slick reversal from Diaz ends up with him on top and he drops a big left into Garcia’s guard. Easy pass into side mount from Diaz and it looks like he’s going for full mount. Sure enough he takes it, but Garcia manages to reverse into Diaz’s guard, right into a triangle choke however. Diaz tries to go for a triangle/armbar combo, but somehow Garcia escapes and stands. That was insane. Big upkick lands for Nate and then he goes for a single leg and gets it as Garcia is exhausted. Half-guard for Garcia but he’s in deep trouble. Reversal somehow from Garcia puts him on top, but Diaz scrambles back up and hits another takedown of his own. Kimura attempt from Garcia but it’s not close and he’s beginning to eat punches. Back to the feet and Diaz stays on Garcia and dumps him to the ground again. Big right hand over the top from Diaz and he follows with some more hard punches. Garcia tries to go for a takedown but almost winds up in another armbar, but he slips free and now he defends a leglock attempt. Garcia goes for one of his own, but the bell sounds before either man can finish. This is a great fight. 10-9 Diaz.
Third round and Garcia clinches and forces Diaz into the fence with some knees, and they muscle for position before Garcia slams him down to guard again. Diaz immediately goes for an armbar though and it looks tight. This time Nate goes belly-down, but somehow Garcia turns around and spins free. Diaz immediately slaps on a triangle from there, and despite Garcia holding on, eventually he has to give up the ghost and taps.
Awesome fight, looked just like one of Diaz’s early fights in the UFC with him giving up loads of takedowns but doing most of his work from his back anyway. Garcia acquitted himself really well for a guy who I figured was a tomato can, too. Nothing bad to say about this one!
Ring announcer is suddenly JUSTIN ROBERTS of WWE fame, I literally had no idea that he was ever with the WEC! Apparently this is a GRUDGE MATCH although I’ve never heard of either guy. Sounds like it was some sort of local rivalry which is cool as back then, those sort of things sold a lot of tickets for promotions like the WEC.
Round One begins and they circle for a while before going off with some really sloppy strikes, both men landing some stuff that doesn’t look good. Lot of circling from Owens and he lands some punches as Miller stays in the center of the cage and keeps his hands pretty low. Side kick from Owens but Miller kicks him in the groin and ref Jon Schorle has to call time. They restart and Owens continues to circle and strike from the outside. Miller’s barely done a thing in this round. Nice low kick into a couple of right hands finally does land for Miller and they suddenly begin to trade sloppy haymakers before Owens circles out again. More circling follows and this is a truly horrible fight. Bunch of kicks from Miller answer a side kick from Owens, and then Miller really swings for him but can’t land cleanly. Round ends there. Not good at all.
Round Two and Owens bulls in for a clinch, but Miller blocks and makes him eat some knees before they break off. Owens looks gassed. Miller keeps chasing forward and lands a couple of big rights, but Owens swings back enough to force him back a little. Good right hand from Owens. Another right lands clean for Owens and both guys look sloppy and tired. Wild swings from both men as this is degenerating into a bar-level fight. Spinning backfist glances for Miller. Wow these guys are gassed. Owens is just swinging random stuff now like a backfist without the spin. Couple of punches land for both. Owens is pretty much just walking away now because he’s so fucked. Few kicks to the leg from Miller. More glacial striking follows before Owens walks away again, angering the ref. Flurry from Miller as he figures Owens can’t really do much, and he goes down off that into the butt-scoot position. Kicks to the legs from Miller and Owens signals to his corner that he’s blown his knee out, and the ref calls it there.
Horrible, sub-KOTC-level fight but sometimes bad, sloppy MMA is quite funny to watch and this was one of those fights. Never seen a guy walking away like Owens was here, it was genuinely bizarre!
Imes for those who’ve forgotten went onto UFC fame via TUF 2, where he reached the finals and was beaten by Rashad Evans. This was his MMA debut and you can see why he was considered a prospect at this point as he’s a GIANT DUDE who looks in serious shape here, much better than he did during his UFC run in fact which does make me wonder whether he was on some supplements at this stage. I’m talking visible abs and everything. Dude looks TERRIFYING. Never heard of Freitag but he’s a pretty hench guy too.
First round begins and Imes chases out swinging before Freitag goes for a takedown. Imes stuffs that using a guillotine and throws Freitag around a bit before forcing him to the ground. Knee to the head from Imes but it’s illegal, and Josh Rosenthal has to call time to give Big Brad a warning. More wild swings from both men and Freitag manages to trip Imes down, but he lands in a guillotine again. Freitag manages to free his head and now he’s on top in half-guard, landing some short punches to the body. Action really slows down as Freitag seems comfortable on top, and then looks to pass to mount. Imes manages to block it, but eventually gives his back and Freitag has both hooks in looking for the choke. Imes manages to roll over though into Freitag’s guard, using sheer force more than anything else. Few elbows land for Imes and it looks like he’s passed into half-guard. He actually hasn’t as Freitag looks like he’s rolling, but Imes locks up an Americana and it looks pretty deep. Into half-guard for Brad and Freitag’s left arm is in deep shit. Somehow though he holds on and refuses to tap despite Imes moving into side mount, and then Brad gives up on the hold to just smother Freitag and land punches. Round ends with Imes on top, pretty clear-cut round for him.
Second round and Freitag stuns Imes with a left hand that forces him to clinch. A throw puts Imes on his back again and it looks like Freitag’s got full mount. Imes desperately tries to buck him off and somehow manages it again using brute force. Freitag has full guard, but with Imes on top I doubt he’s getting up any time soon. Big shots land for Imes from the top, forearms and punches, and Freitag is beginning to look exhausted. He manages to force his way up the fence a bit, and that allows him to roll Imes despite being caught in another guillotine. Choke doesn’t really look tight as Freitag punches the body while defending it, and then pops out and takes the back as Imes strangely goes into the turtle position. Freitag can’t get his hooks in though and he looks a bit confused for some reason, until he starts to unload with some big punches. Imes manages to stand with Freitag on his back and then he dives into the ground, but doesn’t shake Freitag off and the choke looks like it might be sunk! Both hooks in for Freitag but he can’t seal the deal before the round ends. Freitag is EXHAUSTED at the end of the round.
Third round and Freitag comes out swinging, but Imes quickly clinches and forces him back into the fence. Easy takedown from Imes as Freitag is tired, and he almost gets to a quasi-mount position with Freitag seated against the fence. Freitag gives his back and Imes has no hooks, but he’s controlling position well. Looks like Imes might be going for some sort of footlock, and instead he goes into a CALF SLICER of all things, holy shit. Freitag manages to escape though and now he’s on top landing punches from half-guard. Crazy stuff. Imes gives his back and Freitag looks to control him, locking up the choke in the process, but Imes manages to last it out probably due to Freitag not having any hooks in. Commentators are just loving this. Imes tries to escape but still ends up with Freitag controlling him from the back. Good punches from Freitag but he slips off and now Imes is on top, landing some big shots from the guard and Freitag is in trouble! Big elbows from Imes but Freitag goes for a triangle. Imes avoids that and continues to drop elbows, and with seconds to go Josh Rosenthal calls a weird stand-up. Freitag is totally out of gas. They swing into the clinch off the restart, and Freitag buckles him with a HARD low blow. Crowd are furious. Bell sounds right after the restart. No idea how you’d score that, probably for Imes I guess.
Judges have it a split decision for Brad Imes. Hilarious fight as it was sloppy as hell at points but a ton of fun and Imes also showed a hell of a lot of potential, and you can see why he ended up on TUF and in the UFC as quickly as he did. He’s since retired which is unfortunate as it came due to issues with concussions, but man did he give us some fun fights while he was around.
This was for the WEC Lightweight title vacated by Gilbert Melendez for reasons unknown to me. Gabe – who was three years off the infamy he found due to TUF and his failed weight cut – was a prospect at this point with a solid 5-1 record, while Olaf had bounced back from his loss to Melendez with a knockout win and was largely still riding the hype of his wild fight with John Polakowski in 2003. Olaf is just crazy over with this crowd.
Round One and Olaf comes out swinging, firing heavy punches but Gabe rocks him with a left and follows with a clinch. Knees from Gabe as Olaf tries to land punches on him from the clinch, and they jockey for position with Olaf actually going for a takedown of his own that Ruediger avoids. Olaf breaks and some big swings land for him, but Gabe fires back with a left and then shoots. Olaf sprawls and they scramble, and that ends up with Gabe hitting a double leg. Olaf tries a guillotine and that forces Gabe to spin, and they come back to their feet and continue to exchange punches. Knee lands for Olaf as Gabe shoots and it allows Olaf to take the back and look for the choke, but Gabe tucks the chin well to avoid. Olaf does have both hooks sunk in though. Good job from Gabe to spin into Olaf’s guard, and he defends a possible kimura while punching to the body. Nice pass from Gabe and now he takes the back and SINKS THE CHOKE! Olaf looks like he’s in trouble, but he refuses to tap and passes out instead. Referee does a HORRIBLE job of spotting it, leaving an unconscious Olaf stuck in the choke for a good ten seconds before separating them.
Hell of a fight while it lasted, a little sloppy but what do you expect from Olaf? Gabe looked excellent though and it makes me feel a lot better that I was a big fan of his back at this point and figured he’d go on to a ton of success in the UFC after watching this WEC run. How wrong was I? I guess Gabe has the last laugh though as I’m pretty sure Paris Hilton (!) is still paying his bills, so hey.
This was about two years after British veteran Weir’s brief UFC run that saw him tie a record for fastest knockout, and at this point I guess he would’ve been hoping to get back in there, as this was during the ascension of the Cage Rage promotion which was bringing in a lot of international talent and a lot of eyeballs too. Here he was coming off a win over PRIDE veteran Johil de Oliveira, for instance, and in the fight before that he’d lost to Jorge Rivera. Never heard of Bradford, his opponent here, and a check of his record tells me that this was his debut, which is horrible really given Weir’s experience levels.
Fight begins and Weir comes out with a head kick and then looks to clinch to deliver some knees. Bradford goes for the takedown but the Brit defends and they muscle for position, and then Weir gets the takedown to side mount. Full mount from Weir and Bradford is in deep trouble. Bradford tries to tie him up, but Weir works him with some short punches and then Bradford taps, apparently to a front choke variant. Didn’t spot it myself at all.
Replay shows it was almost a guillotine variant. And apparently this was for the WEC North American title, go figure, weird given Bradford was making his MMA debut! Easy win for Weir over a clearly overmatched opponent.
Pre-fight we get a video package showing Lytle as a full-time firefighter, one of the reasons why he was always such a fan favourite I guess as even with a long UFC career he still remained in the firefighting business. He was actually in the midst of a UFC run here in fact, coming off two wins over Tiki Ghosn and Ronald Jhun, both by choke. Announcers mention that this is a grudge match of sorts as Taylor had accused Lytle of ducking him, which I’d say is doubtful given what I know about Chris Lytle.
First round begins and Lytle hits Taylor with a hard body kick and a right hand from the off before clinching. Taylor shrugs him off, but eats another body kick. Couple of kicks miss for Taylor before he lands a low kick and then clinches, forcing Lytle into the fence. Foot stomp from Taylor and they muscle for position and the action slows down before Lytle looks for a guillotine. He locks it up and rolls through into top position, but Taylor escapes the choke. Lytle moves into side mount for a second, but Taylor quickly gets to half-guard. Taylor tries to escape, but he can’t shake Lytle off him and seconds later he taps out. Announcers think it was a neck crank or guillotine.
Very similar to the Mark Weir fight before it, this was pretty much an easy win for Chris Lytle against a massively overmatched opponent. Fun enough for a squash though.
This was Riggs’s return to the WEC following a debut win in the UFC, and of course it’s a sign of the times as today there’s no way a young prospect like Riggs would be able to debut in the UFC with an impressive win and then go back to the regionals for two fights before his next Octagon appearance. Opponent Gonzalez had lost his previous four fights, two of which were against future UFC stars Scott Smith and Josh Burkman.
Round One begins and they circle before Gonzalez swings his way into the clinch. Riggs muscles him into the fence and then trips him down into half-guard, where Gonzalez tries to tie him up. Good job of getting to full guard for Gonzalez but Riggs postures free and begins to drop some absolute SLEDGEHAMMER PUNCHES down before switching to some vicious elbows. Gonzalez is in trouble and Riggs continues to smash him with elbow and punches and finally the ref calls it.
Post-fight Gonzalez tries to claim an early stoppage which might be fair as he didn’t look out, but he was definitely getting hurt by those nasty elbows. Really good showing from Riggs who looked like a surefire future star at this point, but while he did improve – his striking and submissions both came on leaps and bounds from where he was here – I don’t think he ever truly reached his potential for whatever reason as when you look back at his UFC record (ignoring the recent run where he’s been massively past his prime) he ended at a disappointing 4-4.
Not sure how this one ended up being for the WEC HW Title – vacated by Mike Kyle when he moved to the UFC earlier in the year – given it was Oushani’s MMA debut, but hey, regional MMA. Irvin on the flipside was 6-0 at this point with all finishes so maybe they were just looking to get the belt on him I guess. This was prior to his own UFC run.
Fight begins and Ryan Bennett mentions Oushani is apparently an Olympic-calibre wrestler, but the dude looks in horrible shape if I’m frank. Right away Irvin clips him with a right hand over the top. Oushani looks willing to trade and starts to swing some bombs at Irvin, clipping him with a right, but Irvin fires right back before getting clinched on the fence. Takedown from Oushani into Irvin’s guard, but Irvin spins for an armbar and Oushani has to avoid it. Couple of punches get through for Oushani but Irvin kicks him away and gets back to his feet. Oushani’s looking tired, and a couple of one-twos land for Irvin and send him wandering towards the fence. Looks like he’s asking for a time out (!) but referee Josh Rosenthal naturally ignores that (but lets the fight continue) and Irvin nails him with a knee, but then gets taken down off it. Nothing happens from there before Irvin kicks him away, and Oushani just looks exhausted. BIG RIGHT HAND lands for Irvin and sends Oushani crashing down and that’s it. Violent stuff.
Can’t say that wasn’t entertaining even if it looked a bit sloppy. Irvin showed a tendency to leave his chin high in that first exchange, as well as not the best takedown defense, and both points ended up costing him throughout his UFC run, but he was always a lot of fun to watch and this fight was no exception as the knockout was absolutely brutal. Irvin’s first opponent in the UFC? Mike Kyle, the guy who vacated the title Irvin won here. That’s as ironic as rain on your wedding day, dude.
Prior to all the trash-talk and the Anderson Silva feud and – dare I say it – the steroids, Chael was simply a very skilled ground-and-pound loving wrestler with a tendency to fall into submissions. This was about a year before his UFC debut actually, although at this point he had fought a bunch of guys who’d either already fought or went on to fight in the UFC. Stiebling meanwhile still carried a bit of notoriety from his PRIDE run at this point and his last loss was to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira albeit not in PRIDE, rather on a random show in South Korea. He was 2-0 in the WEC with impressive wins over Joe Riggs and Tim McKenzie.
Round One begins and Sonnen looks for the takedown right away, driving Stiebling into the fence before slamming him down with authority. Butterfly guard from Stiebling, but Chael opens up with a quick flurry of ground-and-pound before Alex sits up to hold on. Double-arm slaps from Sonnen ala the first Anderson fight follow, and he begins to chip away to the body and the head. Good shots from Chael and he stands in an attempt to pass the guard, but then decides to just drop some hard shots back into the guard instead. Classic Chael Sonnen thus far. Another attempt to pass the guard goes awry and Stiebling manages to escape to his feet. Flying knee from Sonnen (!) but Stiebling catches him and hits his own bodyslam, landing in side mount! BEAUTIFUL reversal from Sonnen puts him back on top though and gives Jeff Blatnick a boner at cageside. Side mount for Sonnen now and he begins to drop elbows, and it looks like Alex is cut badly under the right eye. Round ends with Chael on top. Clear round for Sonnen.
Round Two and Stiebling comes out swinging, catching Chael with some shots before Chael shoots again. Stiebling defends it well, and ends up forcing Chael into the fence with Chael holding onto a possible guillotine. Action slows down a lot as Josh Rosenthal watches them closely, and finally they go down before Sonnen reverses and lands some hammer fists that force Stiebling onto his back again. More elbows and punches follow for Sonnen and Stiebling looks really bloody now. Triangle attempt from Stiebling is avoided well by Chael, who shrugs the legs off to the side before landing more ground-and-pound into the guard. Josh Rosenthal calls a stand-up with just under a minute to go, but with no messing around Chael plants Stiebling back down with a double leg. Round ends with more ground-and-pound and this is firmly Chael’s fight so far.
Round Three and Chael connects on a left hand before hitting a pretty easy double leg down to guard again. From there it’s more of the same as Chael continues to work Stiebling over with ground-and-pound with little in answer from the former PRIDE star. Josh Rosenthal calls a break again and Stiebling misses with a flying knee and gets dumped on his ass again. Chael was pretty awesome when he was doing this stuff. More punishment follows for Stiebling and the poor guy just can’t do a thing about it. He does try to reverse Chael, but winds up having to spin over onto his back again when Sonnen looks like he could go for a choke from the front headlock. Fight ends with Chael on top and it’s his decision for sure.
Indeed, the judges all go for Chael, like there was any other possible result. This was what you’d call vintage Chael Sonnen as Stiebling couldn’t stop the takedown and Chael didn’t give him enough room to catch a hail mary submission like he’d done against McKenzie and Riggs in his previous WEC fights. Pretty entertaining too as Sonnen was never really boring due to the sheer pace he’d put on with his takedowns and ground-and-pound. Like a precursor to his great UFC run of 2010, this was!
Marshall, still a chubby HW at this point as opposed to the pretty svelte 185lbs he’d get himself down to for his most recent fights, was unbeaten at 4-0 and had won the WEC North American HW title at the last show with an inexplicable armbar of all things, pretty wild for a guy known as a crude brawler. Opponent Garcia had won his last WEC fight with a knockout and was a real veteran, having fought since 1997 in the infancy of the sport.
Fight begins and Marshall stuns Garcia immediately with some punches. Jabs connect for both men and Garcia wings a right hand haymaker that misses by a mile. Exchange continues and Rhino shrugs off a clinch. Good low kick from Garcia. Stiff left hand snaps Marshall’s head back but he seems okay. Leg kick from Rhino. Big punches from Rhino have Garcia stunned and he reaches desperately for a clinch but can’t really get it. He manages to force Marshall into the fence, slowing him down a bit, but Rhino comes through with some CLUBBING PUNCHES that send Garcia crashing down and some hammer fists seal the deal.
Brutal knockout from the Rhino; fight wasn’t as sloppy as I was expecting either – I think Marshall was one of those guys who carried a reputation as a sloppy brawler for some reason but he probably wasn’t as bad as he was made out to be – he just wasn’t quite good enough for the UFC but was an excellent fighter at this level. Not much substance as a main event but as a regional title fight I guess this was fine.
-Show ends with some highlights of the night’s action.
Really fun show from the pre-Zuffa WEC, as outside of the comically bad Miller/Owens fight, everything was entertaining and practically every single fight featured guys who went onto prominence in the UFC (Lambert, Diaz, Imes, Irvin, Ruediger, Sonnen) or had already seen success at the top level (Lytle, Stiebling, Weir). Perhaps the biggest compliment you could give a show like this would be to say that it could never happen today, because this level of fighters would be competing on one of the UFC’s lower-end cards. There are better WEC cards out there for sure – even from the pre-Zuffa run – but if you’re not already signed up to Fight Pass do yourself a favour and check out the whole WEC archive because you can’t really go wrong. Two thumbs up for this one at any rate.
Best Fight: Garcia vs. Diaz
Worst Fight: Miller vs. Owens
Overall Rating: ***3/4
Until next time,